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‘Even in lockdown, WWTW found me things to do. I helped to restore and maintain the local war memorials and to provide food deliveries in the Manchester area. I also got busy and helped to maintain veterans’ gardens – those who were either too old or too ill to do it for themselves. It was rewarding to do something positive for others.’
Chris joined the Cheshire Regiment when he was 17 years old. Immediately after his initial training, he was posted to Hong Kong where he helped to support the Police Force with border patrols. Over the next 8 years, Chris completed 2 tours of Northern Ireland, 6 months in Belize, a posting in the Falklands, and 2 years based at Caterham with the Queen’s Guard undertaking duties in London.
Chris left the Army in 1991 to get married. He and his wife settled in Chester, and he started work in his father’s business. Chris didn’t know what else to do and although he was guaranteed employment, it wasn’t the best move for him - everything had to be done his father’s way and Chris felt trapped. Eventually, he found work elsewhere but when the company folded, he was made redundant. Chris didn’t rush to get another job as he had received a healthy pay-off. However, this left him with a lot of time on his hands.
Throughout his life, Chris had had a problem with alcohol. It affected his family life and ultimately resulted in the end of his marriage after 5 years. Gradually, his dependency increased until he drank all day every day. From time to time, he would detox and stay dry for a while, but it never lasted, and he would always relapse.
In January 2019, he was sent by his GP and his social worker to a rehabilitation centre in Lancaster for 6 months. It was a strictly controlled environment with many rules and regulations to help keep the patients on track. Unfortunately, when Chris was eventually allowed on a home visit, he couldn’t resist having a drink. Despite this, Chris acknowledges that he has managed to control his alcohol consumption much better ever since.
After rehabilitation, his social worker referred Chris to WWTW to help him find something to occupy his time, to re-integrate him into society, and to instil a sense of achievement and fulfilment.
Initially, he was referred to an Employment Advisor, Tom for advice and support. However, as Chris didn’t feel ready for paid employment, he was referred on to Scott, the Project Manager for WWTW’s OP-REGEN programme. OP-REGEN helps to find relevant and rewarding community work for veterans. It particularly aims to utilise the skills that they gained whilst in the military. Scott, Tom and Chris worked together to identify opportunities for Chris.
When Covid-19 arrived and lockdown began, Chris started to become depressed by the situation. With Scott’s support, he had started work at Debdale Park on the construction of a poppy trench but that had come to a halt.
Scott directed Chris towards a partner organisation, City of Trees - a charity based in Greater Manchester that is committed to delivering an environmental recovery programme by planting trees and restoring woodlands. They work with local communities, organisations and businesses and aim to plant 3 million trees over the next 5 years. OP-REGEN supports them in this mission and they provide paid opportunities for members of the armed forces community.
Chris started work with them in March 2021. He has been working with City of Trees as a Project Manager at the park for 3 days a week ever since. In addition, Chris returned to Debdale Park with Scott to discuss plans for the poppy trench. He project-managed a corporate volunteering event to help beautify the park and plant trees in time for Armistice 2021.
‘Scott and the WWTW team have been such a great help and found me plenty to do. They run everything so smoothly. My work at City of Trees has given me a real sense of purpose and routine. It can be all too easy to sit at home and do nothing, but this job gets me out of the house, it keeps me active, and I get to meet a wide variety of people. I enjoy every minute.’
In September, Chris along with a team of veterans took part in a 4-day WWTW challenge to walk the Cumbrian Way. They walked it as a ‘thank you’ for all the support that they had received from Scott, WWTW and the OP-REGEN team.
In 2022, Chris will represent OP-REGEN as a Volunteer Regional Leader and help them to deliver a new campaign. He will play a vital role in WWTW’s future ambitions to become the first port of call for ex-military seeking support and also to help find those that need support but are not actively seeking it.